Saturday, September 18, 2010

Who Am I? Now I Know

30-inch Walking Doll by Reliable, a late-1990s eBay find offered by a Canadian seller

My blog of March 8, 2010, "Dolls From Around The World - Canada," prompted emails from doll owners looking to either sell a doll like mine or seeking additional information about it. 
In the first email, dated May 10, 2010, the owner wrote:
Hello Debbie,

I came across your website while researching about two black dolls I have since the early 60' that I want to sell.

One is a Reliable manufactured 30-inch walker. I have the original clothes: a dress white, black and red, and black shining shoes. You have the same doll dressed in a child's size white dress, socks, and shoes on your website. It is in excellent condition with some marks on the legs
The other one... [she describes it]. 
I am not sure where I can advertise such dolls, and more importantly, I am not sure of their value.
I would appreciate any information you can provide. I love my dolls but my daughter is now 19 and never had any interest in them so I thought I should make them available to someone who cares.

Thanks for your consideration,

I replied to "JP" with a suggestion that she try using eBay to sell her two dolls and requested a picture of the 30-inch doll by Reliable.  She never shared the picture. 

The second email dated June 24, 2010, led to the discovery of my doll's true identity and confirmed her year of manufacture as 1961 instead of 1970, as previously assumed.

Hi Debbie,

... I was doing some research on 1930's composition dolls (for my mother-in-law) when I came accross your photo of a black 30" doll you say you bought on ebay a while back. You have down that it was made by reliable in the 1970's. I have what looks like the exact doll, (mine is marked reliable) I received mine for christmas when I was about 5 years old (I was born in 1957 so that would make it Christmas of 1962). I remember distinctly that it came dressed as a nurse and I have been trying to source a photo of/or original clothing for her. If I can find a photo I can make the clothes myself but I would prefer original clothing if I can get it. My question is are you aware of any places I can search for clothing for my doll? I would appreciate any advice you can give and I thank you in advancce for taking the time to read my email.

Hoping your day is as good as mine, and with best wishes,
I replied,

Hi "AP,"

You are the second person within a few weeks to write me about my "1970's walker."

My guess about my doll's year of manufacture was based on the material she is made of, which was still being used for dolls of her type in the 1970s. Many manufacturers also used the same doll molds for several years, releasing dolls with new names, wearing new fashions, and possibly even giving them new hairstyles. So it is possible that Reliable continued to make this particular doll well into the 70s.

Do you have a picture of your doll that you can share?

I haven't been able to document a doll like mine in any doll reference books and, unfortunately, I do not know a search source for clothing.

Reliable made so many wonderful dolls. It would be nice if someone would write a book about them.
The above bolded statement (which was not typed in bold at the time of my reply), led to my immediate search for doll reference books on dolls made in Canada.  I found The Charlton Price Guide to Canadian Dolls First Edition on eBay on June 29, 2010, in a Buy It Now auction for $17.95.  Hesitant to pay as much for this 1990 book by Evelyn Strahlendorf not knowing its contents, or whether or not it would provide the identity of my doll or other black dolls I own, I wrote the seller and asked,

Does this book feature any black dolls? Thanks in advance!
He replied,

Thanks for asking. I was surprised at the number of Canadian black dolls included, and I left out the ambiguous probable Indian/Eskimo ones. I count 28 detailed and illustrated black dolls. Hope that helps! - Mike

Excited and anxious to complete the purchase, I wrote back,
I'm surprised at the amount, too. Yes, it helps... enough for me to buy it now. Thank you for taking the time to give me a head count.


After the book arrived, I was pleased to find several familiar faces of Canadian dolls, but the best surprise was to find my 30-inch walking doll.  The doll is indeed from 1961 when the term "coloured" or "colored" was widely used for dark-skinned people and dolls that represent them, with spelling dependent upon the country of origin.   She's shown and described below in the following image of page 181 in Strahlendorf's book.

Coloured Nurse Walking Doll by Reliable Toys 1961




  1. I recall the use of "colored," LOL. I used to wonder if any people completely lacked pigment then, but oh yes, I remember that descriptor.

    Were there any Black fashion dolls in the Canadian book? Barbie-Christie scale? A nosy Cooper wants to know ;-D

    Thanks for sharing the results of your doll query/research.

  2. Hi D7ana,

    The Charlton Price Guide to Canadian Dolls unfortunately does not reference any black fashion dolls.

    I was surprised to discover Tammy in the book. Canada's version is marked: C. IDEAL TOY CORP. (on head); RELIABL/CANADA (on back). Ideal did market black Grown Up Tammy in America, but the book does not mention a black Tammy (any version) offered in Canada.

    I still have my childhood Tammy that I unsuccessfully tried to dye brown. Well, she is brown, but her leg color does not match her face and arm color.

    After the unsuccessful dye attempt, I later acquired black Grown Up Tammy as an adult.

  3. I have a 36 inch doll that looks a lot like your 30 inch one, but I can't find any markings. Any ideas on who she might be?

  4. Can you upload a picture on the Internet of your doll and share the link?


  5. This is just a picture that I already had, but it shows her face rather well. She has short curly hair, but it's in rough shape. She's 36 inches tall and I believe she's a type of walker. It seems like if you kind of rock her from side to side the legs move? I hope this link works:

    If the link doesn't work just go to: and look in the Temporary album.

  6. Thanks for sharing the URL to your lovely companion/life-like/Patti Playpal type doll. These are all terms used to describe your unmarked version of a doll made in the 1960s as a result of the popularity of Ideal's Patti Playpal. Very few black PPP-types were made in the 1960s; Ideal did not even make a black version in the 1960s. Their first black PPP was made in 1981.

    Some of the "types" are walking dolls with metal walking mechanisms in one leg. When the doll's hand ias guided, it "walks with you." From your description, it sounds like you have a walker.

    Unfortunately, because your doll is unmarked, it will be difficult to link it to a particular manufacturer and/or know its original name.

    Visit here to view images of white dolls that use a similar mold as your doll.


  7. Thanks. Oh well, I enjoy my little no name doll. I have fun buying her clothes in the resale shop. I bought her at a big city wide garage sale some years back. Perhaps someday I can find her a friend.

  8. Continue to enjoy her. They are fun to redress in children's clothing. I have approximately 10 PPP-type companion dolls that I have enjoyed for several years including two 1981 authentic Patti Playpals by Ideal and the reproduced (using the 1960s mold) Patti Playpal by Ashton Drake/Collectibles Today.




Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!